Foreign Nationals

We cover specific foreign national assignment questions from corporate human resource, tax, and legal departments.

Tax Attributes of Specific Visas

Following is a common description of various US visa classes from a tax perspective. All visa types are subject to income and other payroll tax withholdings unless an exception is noted. Your immigration attorney should be consulted on the requirements of these visas, exact definitions and employer/sponsor responsibilities for wage payments.

B-1/B-2 Visa

A visa used by a visitor to the US. A B-1 visa holder is not authorized to work in the US and should never be hired onto a US payroll. This person may have a US tax liability for business days spent in the states. See the B-1 Visa and Visa Waiver page for further information and examples.

Visa Waiver

A visitor to the US who does not need a visa. Visa waiver tax implications are the same as for a B-1/B-2 Visa. See the B-1 Visa and Visa Waiver page for further information and examples.

OCS - Offshore Continental Shelf

A special endorsement to a B-1/B-2 visa for crewmembers on foriegn vessels working in US waters. The Coast Guard isses the OCS letter to the vessel which is typically engaged in the exploration and production of oil and gas.. A number of unusual tax circumstances are encountered when working with personnel off the continental shelf which are described on our OCS page.


Crewmember of foreign vessels. Usually issued so that the crewmember may transit to the vessel. Special income and payroll tax exemptions apply to these visa holders if the vessel is involved in international transportation.

L-1 Visa

An inter-company transfer visa. A company may transfer an employee from a foreign related company to the US company using this visa. All compensation must be included in the US W-2 even if paid by a foreign employer. All payroll tax withholdings apply.

H-1 Visa

An alien with special skills may be brought to the US on this visa. All wages are reported on the W-2 and subject to all tax withholdings.

TN Visa (Treaty NAFTA)

Similar to an H-1 visa but typically valid for only year. Only Canadian and Mexican employees hold this visa.

H-3 Visa

A trainee visa used for a training program in the US. Special exemptions for income or living expense reimbursements may be available in a tax treaty. Advance planning may signficantly reduce the US tax liability. The income and FICA exemptions available to a trainee on a J-1 visa do not apply to an H-3.

Permanent Residents/Green Card Holders

Permanent residents are taxed very much like US citizens. See the Permanent Resident page for more information.

F-1 Visa

A visa issued to a foreign national studying in the US. Special exemptions from Social Security, Medicare and FUTA/SUTA may apply while at school or in optional practical training. An exemption from income tax for foreign paid compensation may also apply. See the Substantial Presence Test page for an special exception when determining tax residence.

J-1 Visa

A trainee visa. Similar income and social tax considerations apply as for an F-1 visa holder.

A-1, G-1 and NATO Visas

Government and certain international organization employees typically exempt from US tax and reporting requirements.